Thursday, April 15, 2010
A Frank Conversation About Racial Issues in the Monona Grove School District.
Our School Board meeting last night included a frank discussion of the racial issues that confront the Monona Grove School District. Monona Grove High School Principal Paul Brost, Glacial Drumlin Principal Renee Tennant and Diversity Coordinator Charlie Ellis sat down with the Board to discuss several incidences of racial intolerance in the district in recent years and detailed their ideas, concerns and plans for action. Both principals felt that cultural competency has become part of their schools' dialogue in recent years and have been successful with dealing with issues at both a student level and at an institutional level. The Ambassador Program for new students entering the district at the High School, the Friday meetings of the BSU, and the freshly implemented Focus groups at GDS were offered as examples of proactive programs initiated in the district. We discussed the emergence of a white supremacy gang, the Hicks and Coon Killers or CKs that is active in and recruiting within the district. This gang has been identified by the Dane County Law Enforcement Gang Prevention Unit and is thought to have originated in Cottage Grove. While this gang's presence is by no means isolated to the Monona Grove School District, we are seeing increased activity at the High School and community presence, particularly in members congregating outside area businesses in Cottage Grove. These gang members self-identify with the wearing of John Deere and camouflage apparel, as well as caps with fish hooks stuck in the visor. Of course, it is important to note that many people wear these items without any gang affiliation. My grandfather, for example, was a huge fan of John Deere and I can safely say that he was never a member of the CKs. I felt the most important message of the evening was that there is a huge need to examine these issues collaboratively as communities and as a school district. While Tennant and Brost both agreed that children are getting better at reporting racially-driven incidences in school and are increasingly aware of gang concerns and gang activity in the district, the communities themselves need to step up their efforts to self-report incidences to the police departments. There is a real fear of retaliation among community members, and as Charlie Ellis stated, we need to take away that sense of anonymity that some students feel they have while out in the community committing acts of racial harassment.